FlixWorthy: Reaper, Karate Kid(s), And More

By David Wharton 2011-02-19 23:28:14
Welcome back to FlixWorthy, your weekly guide to Netflix streaming. Yet again we're bringing you a handful of new or notable selections from Netflix's streaming catalogue. Some will be classics, some will be little-seen gems, some will be shows you might have missed, and some...some will be crap so awful they simply has to be seen to be believed.

Here's what's FlixWorthy this week, kids.




Reaper
(2007, TV-PG, 2 seasons available, HD)

Alas, poor Reaper. Launching the same season as Chuck, Reaper also followed the adventures of a hapless nerdy fellow thrown into events far above his pay grade. But while Chuck became embroiled in the world of espionage and got a top secret government database jammed inside his noggin, Reaper's Sam Oliver (Bret Harrison) discovered that his parents sold his soul to Satan. On his 21st birthday, the Devil (a perfectly cast Ray Wise) comes to collect. The good news is that Satan isn't just going to drag Sam down to Perdition on the spot. The bad news is, he's tasking Sam with recapturing souls escaped from Hell. But while Chuck has survived several near deaths to make it to its currently airing fourth season, Reaper only survived two. Maybe it just came down to love interests; Missy Peregrym is lovely, but she's no Yvonne Strahovski. Like Chuck, Reaper struggled to find its footing and often wound up too formulaic for its own good. Still, Sam's soul-hunting antics are a lot of fun, and Ray Wise's smarmy Devil is endlessly entertaining.

Double-Feature It With...

Better Off Ted
(2009, TV-PG, 2 seasons available)

Ted Crisp (Jay Harrington) and the employees of Veridian Technologies may not have supernatural threats to deal with each episode, but they do face something equally daunting: the maddening, Escher-esque logic of corporate bureaucracy. As an R and D exec for the generic business conglomerate, Ted deals with questionable ethics, PR disasters, and a boss (Portia de Rossi) incapable of empathy. Arrested Development fans will find much to like in this sharp workplace satire.



The Karate Kid
(2010, Rated PG, 140 min.)

Yet another entry in Hollywood's ever-increasing ledger of unnecessary remakes, at least this new spin on The Karate Kid shakes up the story with a new setting and characters. Stepping in as the 21st century's Daniel Laruso is Will Smith offspring Jaden, who plays Dre, a young American kid uprooted after his mother moves him to Beijing. From there, things play out in a more or less familiar pattern, with Dre falling afoul of bullies, befriending an unlikely martial arts master (Jackie Chan), and learning to kick ass (preferably via a series of musical montages). Of course, in the remake he's actually learning kung fu, not karate, a misnomer I wouldn't keep harping on had Sony not included a scene of Jackie Chan saying, "I will teach you real kung fu" in the fucking movie trailer. It's the Eight Legged Freaks fiasco all over again...

Double-Feature It With:

The Karate Kid
(1984, Rated PG, 127 min.)

Sure, let the new kids have their Jaden Smiths and their Jackie Chans. For me, The Karate Kid will always be about Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, a very young Elisabeth Shue, and Joe Esposito singing "You're the Best." Well, that and the illegal sweeping of legs.






FlashForward
(2009, TV-14, 1 season available, HD)

The latest drama to come out of the gate with a mesmerizing pilot and the explicit goal of trying to recapture the ongoing mystery and rich characterization of Lost, FlashForward had a better shot than most...then it fell prey to the same problems even Lost itself suffered from over the years. Filler storylines. Questions on top of questions. And, perhaps most damningly, a big freakin' gap right in the middle of their freshman season. After FlashForward went on hiatus from December to March of 2009, the show had a new mystery to solve: where the hell did the audience go? It's not surprising. The show hadn't yet worked all the kinks out of its pacing, so it's understandable that many viewers either lost interest or just flat-out forgot about the show. That's a shame, because it had one of the most riveting set ups of recent years, and assuming they had any sort of game plan in place for where the show would be heading, it could have been something special. As it is, however, it's just another case of wasted potential. Still, as one of those who never returned after that hiatus, I am curious to see how the show wound down to whatever hasty conclusion it offered.

Double-Feature It With:

Kyle XY
(2006, TV-14, 3 seasons available, HD)

If you're looking for more than a one-season wonder to keep your science fiction gland properly inflamed, Netflix has recently added all three seasons of this ABC Family series about a teenager with a mysterious past and no bellybutton. I've never seen an episode, but have heard a lot of good things about it. And since Netflix stubbornly refuses to add The Middleman to their streaming catalogue, this will have to do.




Eli Stone
(2008, Not Rated, 2 seasons available, HD)

If you're a fan of Dexter, watching Eli Stone is going to be a surreal experience for you. This is because series lead Johnny Lee Miller played Jordan Chase on the just-completed season of Showtime's serial-killer series. Without spoiling anything, Chase was a bad, bad man, which will make it somewhat jarring when you leap into Eli Stone and are introduced to Miller playing the title character, a ruthless lawyer who undergoes a change of heart when he begins having prophetic visions occasionally involving pop stars. Of course, that may just be the result of an inoperable brain aneurysm. The show traffics in the sort of quirky storytelling David E. Kelly all but wrote the book on, so if shows like Ally McBeal and Boston Legal make your skin crawl, Eli Stone likely won't be your cup of tea. But for the rest of you looking for a feel-good show that deals smartly with questions of Life, the Universe, and Everything, Eli Stone is well worth the time it'll take to zip through the show's two seasons.

Double-Feature It With:

Dirty Sexy Money
(2007, TV-PG, 2 seasons available, HD)

Eli Stone creator Greg Berlanti also served as exec producer on this primetime soap before moving on to higher profile gigs such as co-writing the script for the upcoming Green Lantern movie. Following the exploits of the ridiculously wealthy Darling family of New York, Dirty Sexy Money is dirty, sexy fun grounded by a charismatic performance by Peter Krause as the family's beleaguered attorney.




Satisfaction
(2007, Not Rated, 3 seasons available, HD)

Unless you frequently trawl all the latest additions to Netflix's Instant Watch catalogue, you've probably never heard of Satisfaction. I certainly hadn't, until I encountered it in just that fashion. Fortunately, what looked at first glance to be something akin to Cinemax's late-night soft-core offerings actually proved to be a sharp, well-written character drama that just happens to be about the escorts who work at a high-class Australian brothel. Don't worry, you'll find T + A on display if that's what you're looking for, but there's also plenty of substance underneath all the skin. Satisfaction introduces you to the upscale call girls of 232, then spins storytelling gold out of their exploits both inside and outside the club, from a mother trying to keep her job secret from her daughter, to crumbling relationships, to money troubles that may imperil the club's existence. Like FX's Nip/Tuck, the show gets a lot of mileage out of the eclectic tastes of the customers who pass through the club, dealing with fetishes ranging from the funny to the unnerving. Satisfaction is guilty-pleasure TV for grown-ups, but thankfully the guilt doesn't arise from sub-par storytelling.

Double-Feature It With:

Scrubs
(2001, TV-PG, 9 seasons available, HD)

We opened this week's column with a pair of shows centered around the workplace (however unconventional the job may be), so it seems only appropriate that we end the same way. Over its nine-year run, Scrubs wavered from hilarious to horrible, but very few shows ever matched the mixture of humor, fantasy, and heart it provided when it was firing on all cylinders.






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